Researchers say the discovery has implications that go beyond romantic dalliances among these members of the paradisaeidae family of birds. ”There’s lots of reasons we humans want to absorb light effectively—some aesthetic, some material,” says McCoy.

“Hopefully, engineers can use what the bird of paradise teaches us to improve our own human technologies as well,” says Yale University professor Rick Prum, the study’s senior author. For example the the edge of the birds’ feathers are frayed to catch trap more light; these light-absorbent qualities could be used by engineers to develop more efficient solar panels.

NASA has spent a over a decade perfecting a super-black nanotechnology that will make their instruments more sensitive. McCoy notes that that birds-of-paradise feathers are easier to study than the nano-scale material most super-black researchers are dealing with.

As for the aesthetic side of things: Currently, artist Anish Kapoor asserts exclusive rights to “the blackest black shade” that he’s invented. Perhaps the birds of paradise feathers could give other artists an alternative with which to challenge that claim.

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